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Can the Tories really beat Labour for Police Commissioners?


11:40 am - August 13th 2012

by Leo Barasi    


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ConservativeHome has stuck its neck out with an analysis of voting preferences for the November elections for Police and Crime Commissioners. Based on work by the Police Foundation, the article suggests that “even on the current discouraging opinion poll trends the Conservatives would end up winning the election of 21 commissioners against 20 for Labour”.

The claim has been picked up by the Guardian.

But such a high figure seems like an odd sort of reverse expectation management on the part of ConservativeHome – as if they have some anti-Cameron agenda.

The first reason why the figure of 21 Tory Commissioners seems too high is that it is based on out-dated opinion poll data. Through no fault other than bad luck, the Police Foundation used data from February, when Labour’s average lead over the Tories was 1.5pts; the current UK Polling Report lead for Labour is 10pts.

Given that Labour’s support, absolutely and relative to the Tories, is now several points higher than it was when the Police Foundation did their analysis, some of the marginals might now go the other way. The tightest ones projected in the Tory column are Avon and Somerset, Bedfordshire, Northamptonshire and Warwickshire, and the same calculation, repeated now, might put all of these in Labour’s side, depending on exactly which polls are used.

I’m not sure whether ConservativeHome missed this or chose to ignore it, but the suggestion that the analysis incorporates “current” polling isn’t correct.

The second problem with the prediction of 21 Tory Commissioners is the unpredictability of the election.

Turnout is one issue. Of course it will be low, but at the moment there’s no way of knowing whether this will affect one side more than another.

There’s also the unpredictable impact of independent candidates. Plausible local campaigns could disrupt the Tory/Labour dominance, or they may just disappear without trace in an election that won’t get much national media coverage.

The other unpredictable factor, which could be crucial, is how voters will see the election.

ConservativeHome points out that the Tories are still ahead of Labour in being seen to have the best policies on law and order. Perhaps the electorate will take the opportunity to give Tories control over the police while continuing to prefer Labour for other policy areas.

Or it may be that voters won’t care that the election is about policing, but rather will take it as an opportunity to give the government a bloody nose. In which case, Labour’s poll lead would be more salient than the Tories’ lead on law and order.

Given this, we may see the parties doing what they can to get the election onto their terms: Labour trying to connect local PCC candidates to their national parties, with the Tories seeking to distance themselves.

So from what we know, 21 is a brave starting prediction for ConservativeHome to have repeated. But until we start getting some meaningful polling on how people see the elections and intend to vote, if at all, no predictions at the moment are much better than guesses.

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About the author
Leo is a regular contributor to Liberal Conspiracy. He manages communications for a small policy organisation, and writes about polling and info from public opinion surveys at Noise of the Crowd
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Story Filed Under: Blog ,Crime ,Westminster

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Reader comments


I don’t think its that surprising, ‘law & order’ has always been associated more with the Tories. Maybe thats why they were so keen to have elections for the police.

Why don’t the other parties support independent candidates instead of playing the party political game with the Tories, when they’ll do badly anyway?

It’s hard to say, really. I fully expect the whole thing to be a flop, but when turnouts are low, Tories tend to do better. It’s that duty thing.

The real question is how low a voter response is needed for the whole thing to be considered invalid? The PCS recently dodged some really bad press by not striking after a low ballot. If only 10% of the public vote in the PCC elections, which wouldn’t surprise me, then what?

@2 Then it’ll still be declared valid because it’s not a bunch of proles voting to down tools, which of course require the highest possible standards.
I believe that’s how ‘liberal democracies’ work.

Regardless of who become the PCC, it should be scrapped as soon as possible. The police should not be politicised to such an extent. The Policing should be about tackling crime, not about chasing votes.

5. john P reid

law & order’ has always been associated more with the Tories- yet crime doubled when the tories were last inm, true what labour stood for in the 80’s was percieved as being so anti the police, that they reckoned they couldn’t keep law and order if labour were in, but as crime fell under labour, i don’t see hy the tories are the party of law and order.

@1

I think you mean the breakdown of law and order is always associated with the Tories.

PCC, just a home for useless, self serving parasites past their Westminster sell by date.
On polling days, I almost always spoil my ballot but I’m not even going to grace this fandango with an appearance.
Just another expensive distraction.

@5 and @1

Sorry, meant in terms of public perception rather than reality. The right is usually associated with being ‘tough’ on crime, whereas the left are perceived as caring about offenders’ wellbeing and rehabilitation rather than good old punishment. Talking tabloid headlines rather than facts; but this is what wins elections.

4. Geraint

The police are already politicised. However, under the current situation, this means kow-towing to Whitehall and Westminster. The Police Committees are ineffective because very time they suggest something, the Chief Constable just says it’s an operational matter. Remember Ian Blair (head of the Met) effectively telling the London Assembly police committee that he was going to ignore them because he had the ear of the current (labour) Home Secretary and Tony Blair.

The current system is broken. I’m not sure elected commisionars are the answer, but they might at least insulate police forces from the centre and provide some form of local accountability.

On the substantive issue in the OP, the Tories best chance for good results is a low (and differential) turnout.

That fact that a party that was dead set against PCCs is now so totally for them because it’s side is doing so well shows why elected PCCs are so wrong. If elected PCCs are to work they shouldn’t be elected on any left/right basis. They should be elected on the basis of doing the right job, not because they belong to a political party.

Politicians in charge of the police? – absolute disaster will unfold.

11. Robin Levett

@MarkAustin #9:

The police are already politicised. However, under the current situation, this means kow-towing to Whitehall and Westminster. The Police Committees are ineffective because very time they suggest something, the Chief Constable just says it’s an operational matter. Remember Ian Blair (head of the Met) effectively telling the London Assembly police committee that he was going to ignore them because he had the ear of the current (labour) Home Secretary and Tony Blair.

The Met are of course a special case; the Commissioner was until 2000 directly accountable to the Home Secretary, unlike any other chief officer, and even now the Home Secretary has sole hire/fire powers. Outside London, the chief officer is hired/fired by the relevant police authority.

12. domestic extremist

Apparently, very low polls are predicted. But even if the criminal fraternity lived up to the name and got behind a latter-day Bill Sikes or Moriarty, is there any reason to believe that anything would change? We have been told rather too often by the police that lessons have been learned and procedures and culture transformed. Try telling that to Mark Duggan’s family.

12, So far the police haven’t been found to have done anything wrong in the MArk Duggan case, But Duggan was on the Tottneham Dem Man a yardie gang that killed 50 people, try telling that to their families.

12, So far the police haven’t been found to have done anything wrong in the MArk Duggan case, But Duggan was in the Tottneham Dem Man a yardie gang that killed 50 people, try telling that to their families.

15. domestic extremist

The question of whether the police carried out an extra- judicial assassination on Mark Duggan (and have failed to be held to account by their colleagues in the “Independent” Police Complaints Commission) is entirely separate from the florid allegations you bring against the dead man. However many crimes he might have committed, nothing gives the police the right to execute him. If they were to have that right, neither you nor I could safely walk the streets without fear of being shot on sight should some policeman believe we were involved in serious crimes.


Reactions: Twitter, blogs
  1. Liberal Conspiracy

    Can the Tories really beat Labour for Police Commissioners? http://t.co/eboNLCux

  2. neil lambert

    Can the Tories really beat Labour for Police Commissioners? http://t.co/eboNLCux

  3. Jason Brickley

    Can the Tories really beat Labour for Police Commissioners? http://t.co/UARebJfv

  4. leftlinks

    Liberal Conspiracy – Can the Tories really beat Labour for Police Commissioners? http://t.co/m8YFqPDk

  5. sunny hundal

    Can the Tories really beat Labour over Police Commissioners elections? http://t.co/xTXFV93J Unlikely, says @leobarasi

  6. Thomas Milman

    Can the Tories really beat Labour over Police Commissioners elections? http://t.co/xTXFV93J Unlikely, says @leobarasi

  7. Eileen Allen

    Can the Tories really beat Labour over Police Commissioners elections? http://t.co/xTXFV93J Unlikely, says @leobarasi

  8. BevR

    Can the Tories really beat Labour for Police Commissioners? | Liberal Conspiracy http://t.co/5kCvLReo via @libcon

  9. The Chamberlain Files

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